Brooks, Margaret (2 of 8). Oral History of Oral History
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2013-02-12, 2013-04-09, 2013-05-15, 2013-07-16, 2013-09-053-07-17, 2013-09-24, 2013-11-13, 2013-12-04, 2014-01-22, 2014-02-19
The British Library
Brooks, Margaret (speaker, female)
Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)
Part 2: [Session two: 9 April 2013 ] Mothers name is Adelene Anne Kelly, known as Anne. Both parents when they divorced moved separately to New York. Her father moved to England but did not settle in one place. Mother and stepfather moved to a suburb of Washington DC. He was a neurologist. They moved to elsewhere in Maryland then Massachusetts. First tape recorder she owned was a small Aiwa reel-to-reel recorder given by her father. She recorded music and family events. Still has some of the reels. First impressions of the IWM sound archive. David Lance had his own office and staff of three had their own. [06:50] The staff were working on recording airmen of the First World War. They were also doing interviews with land forces of the First World War. Margaret then embarked upon conscientious objectors in the First World War. They always tried to include all ranks. Increasing interest in working class experiences. [12:06] Plan was to draw up a 'project paper' or outline/questionnaire to use as an aide memoir to the interview. Describes what might be included in the list. Early days in the 1970s the interviews were shorter. They got longer up to 20 or more hours later on. Did do short thematic interviews from time to time from early on often as a result of informant's time constraints. David Lance felt they should only do one project at a time. They used to do a preliminary interview before the recorded interview, this was dropped early on. They used introductory telephone conversations and 'interview information sheets' on which the informants filled in brief details of their service or other experiences in advance so the interviewers had an idea of what to ask and any communication problems. [24:08] Issues with the need to replace completed tapes; initially 15- then 30-minute recording periods. After the interview they took the tapes back to the office. For the first few years they did not have a full-time audio technician so they used simply to stack up the recorded interviews. They would take notes from the first session for the second one if it went that far. [30:00] First use of sound material in the museum tape recorder switched on and off by staff. They originally had their own full time typist. She retired and not replaced. Extracts of typescripts were useful for exhibitions. Margaret did about 50 interviews with conscientious objectors and others associated or involved with the anti-war movement. The land forces interviews was a long term project. Describes the different reasons for being a CO. Some interviewees became famous e.g. Fenner Brockway. Mentions interviews on Greenham Common where they interviewed people with different points of view. [43:50] Have always tried to include enemies e.g. Germans. Have interviewed Irish; in the 1970s Margaret wanted to interview people with memories of 1916, but David Lance stopped her due to the risks. In the early 2000s they were interviewing people about The Troubles. The initial fliers project morphed into aviation between the Wars. The First World War land warfare project continued for a long time. [48:56] Her next project was on munitions workers and other First World War civilians. This included people who worked around the factories. They did not have the budget to interview abroad. They have also collected recordings from other sources. Also other relevant recordings which were not oral histories. They acquired recordings of the Nuremburg Trials undertaken by BBC staff. In addition to the recordings there were court stenographers who were transcribing in English and in the speakers' own languages. [59:31] Audio recording was still a novelty in the 1970s. Some interviewees could not understand its role and the technology. Interviewees have always been offered a copy of the recording. They didnt have volunteers at that time. [1:03:20] David Lance had a range of responsibilities including technology. He used the BBC and the Central Office of Information for advice. He had worked in the library. The then deputy director Christopher Roads had the idea to set up the sound archive. The team had Margaret and Martin Brice as interviewers. They used to do research for creating the project paper and David used to comment on them initially. The museum had extensive archival resources to draw upon. Talks about how to find people to interview for the munitions project. More detail about the project including opportunities for women. The let-down after the war when the men returned. Most of the interviewees were on the factory floor, but also some administrators.
Life story interview with Margaret Brooks, former archivist and head of the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archive.